Discord leads UI education faculty to leave committee

They say they should have been allowed to share survey results

IOWA CITY — Some faculty members of the University of Iowa College of Education say recent UI administrative decisions have lacked transparency and violated principles of shared governance, leading seven of them to resign from the college’s Faculty Advisory Committee on Friday.

Some of the discord stems from a recent college survey that solicited faculty and staff comments. Those comments were compiled and leadership of a faculty group and a staff group in the college intended to distribute them to faculty and staff. However, those two group leaders said in an email Wednesday to college faculty and staff, they were ordered to delete their electronic copies of those comments by UI officials.

“We consider these actions a violation of the principles of shared governance and the integrity of a (College of Education) governance body,” the seven members of the Faculty Advisory Committee wrote in an email Friday announcing their resignations.

UI Provost Barry Butler said he considers the survey comments to be part of confidential personnel records, because they relate to the performance of Education Dean Margaret Crocco and others in the college. Butler, who was out of state Friday but gave a statement via email, also said a media report that personnel records were destroyed was wrong.

Butler said he has the documents and they have been placed in Crocco’s personnel file, but he did not want any other copies of the survey comments to be distributed. The faculty feedback will be discussed with Crocco in her upcoming evaluation, Butler said. And the quantitative results from the survey — data other than the anonymous comments — have been distributed, he said.

“There is discontent in the College of Education about the changes and direction Dean Crocco is taking the college. Changes that do away with business as usual always come with challenges,” Butler said. “When I heard the feedback may be distributed, I collected copies and asked for confirmation that any other copies had been deleted.”

College of Education Professor Betsy Altmaier, wrote an email to Butler Thursday, copying UI President Sally Mason and several others, protesting the treatment of those two elected leaders of the college faculty and staff at the Tuesday meeting with Butler. Altmaier’s email, released Friday by the UI, said all involved were working within an agreed-upon governance process.

“For you to literally refuse to leave the room without having in your possession all hard copies of the material, and to threaten them with legal exposure quite contrary to university policy, is reprehensible,” she wrote.

Volker Thomas, the former chairman of the College of Education Faculty Advisory Committee, and Mike Morony, chairman of the college’s Staff Council, wrote in their email Wednesday to college faculty and staff that Butler told them if they did not delete all copies of the survey comments, the university would withdraw legal protection for them if a lawsuit were to be filed in regards to those comments.

Adding to the discord is a vote of no confidence on Crocco’s leadership instigated by senior faculty in the college. Ballots were distributed in early November to all 91 faculty, and 65 were returned. Of those, 44 voted no confidence in Crocco, 16 expressed confidence and five faculty abstained. Those vote results were reported to the faculty, Crocco and Butler in November.

Crocco, who began as the UI education dean in July 2011, said Friday some of the disagreement likely stems from adjustment to a new college leader and to differing communication styles. However, Crocco said she was “surprised by the tenor of the faculty’s expression of their discontent and by how high the decibel level has become.”

She also said she believes the vote of no confidence was conducted in such a way that didn’t allow good discussion or an airing of issues.

“Clearly, the dialogue has not been as effective as we would all like,” Crocco said. “I think together, faculty, staff and I have to all turn our attention to solving the problem of being better communicators, and I think it’s a two-way street.”

Altmaiersaid Friday that faculty want to see the survey comments, and they also want to see more action and discussion based on the no confidence vote. Similar comments from previous survey focus groups are posted on the college website, and are not treated as confidential.

“It rips the fabric of our mutual expectations,” Altmaier said of the demand to faculty and staff leaders to delete the survey comments. “This is unheard of.”

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